“Where is Doug Ford?” at end 2021 (& will he win 2022 Ontario election anyway)??

Dec 28th, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
“A Poet Letting Off Steam: Ratta tat tat, Elijah” by Michael Seward, December 2021.

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, 28 DEC 2021. Shortly before the arrival of Santa Claus (as tracked for the 66th year by NORAD — aka North American Aerospace Defense Command), blogTO ran a piece called “People are wondering where Ontario Premier Doug Ford is right now.”

Written by Karen Longwell, the piece began with : “The whereabouts of Premier Doug Ford are being called into question as a video that seems to show him heading to the cottage continues to circulate … On Twitter, the hashtag #WhereIsDougFord has a long list of people pondering the missing-in-action premier.”

Ms Longwell continued : “While it appears Ford did return to [the old Toronto west-end suburb of] Etobicoke to get his booster shot on Dec. 21, his communications office says Ford hasn’t been able to get into his [Etobicoke] home due to crowds of protesters … ‘The Premier and his family haven’t been able to get into their home for most of the weekend or today because anti-vaxxers have been protesting outside their house.’”

Premier Ford talks about COVID in the fall of 2021.

At a time in local Ontario provincial life when, as elsewhere in the global village, so much is so uncertain, it may actually be vaguely reassuring to note that the year just ending began with similar questions on the whereabouts of Premier Ford.

In the later part of January 2021, blogTO had already published a piece headlined “Doug Ford’s office denies rumours that he was at his cottage this weekend.” Here Becky Robertson complained that “Ontario residents have been particularly peeved at Premier Doug Ford in recent days after allegations began swirling across social media that he made a sneaky trip up to his cottage over the weekend.”

Ms Robertson went on : “It’s not the first time Ford has been blasted for heading up north amid pandemic lockdown, either: he had to explain back in the spring why he made the trip from Toronto to Muskoka over the Easter long weekend after he had asked people to hold off on leaving their primary residences … He claimed at that time that he had driven up simply to check up on his place, and was home within hours.”

Ford family cottage in the summer of 2011.

As it happens, public (or at least media) fascination with the Ford family cottage and its various inhabitants at various points in time can be traced on Google at least as far back as Enzo DiMatteo’s NOW Magazine piece of July 4, 2011, on “The Ford Family compound … A few facts about Rob Ford’s cottage.”

This piece by the eminent Mr. DiMatteo from 10 years ago is still worth some brief quotation : “Location : On picturesque Fawn Lake in the Muskokas about half way between Bracebridge and Huntsville … Also known as El Rancho Grande … Who owns it : … the mayor’s Big Brother Doug Jr. … councillor for Ward 2 … What it looks like : Circa 1967 Viceroy and the place to party on the lake — sandy beach along the waterfront with … all the water toys.”

I have uncovered this trivial data while trying to probe what strikes me as the increasing mystery of Premier Doug Ford, and his contributions as government leader of Canada’s most populous province. (And ultimately those of the Ford family generally, including the late Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the late 1990s Ontario PC MPP Doug Ford Sr, and even the current Toronto city councillor Michael Ford, nephew of Rob and Doug.)

Untitled mixed media by Michael Seward, December 2021.

Doug Ford today is not what he was during his first year as Ontario premier. In my mind getting booed in public at the Toronto Raptors NBA championship celebration, in the middle of June 2019, marked a key turning point. The resignation of his controversial first chief of staff, Dean French, launched a wave of change several days later. But Premier Ford’s popular reputation in opinion polls would not notably improve until the province seemed to have some initial success in managing the first wave of the COVID pandemic, earlier in 2020.

Meanwhile, since the summer of 2019 it has never seemed altogether clear to me just who or what is really running the Government of Ontario nowadays, in the depths of Queen’s Park :

Rob and Doug’s 2016 book!

(a) A reformed Doug Ford (the brains behind the controversial late right-wing populist Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford), practically reconstructed in part by the global pandemic (which, whatever else, Premier Ford has not finally approached like some other right-wing populists) ; or

(b) Some quiet committee of some updated version of the old “natural-governing” Ontario PC (“Progressive Conservative”) party, increasingly using Premier Ford as a (sometimes mysteriously absent?) communicator-in-chief, while the real policy decisions are made and acted on by more savvy and seasoned players.

My past few days’ research on the subject (including initial online forays into the deeper Doug Ford and Ford family political biographies) has only touched the surface of what I think I finally want to be looking at on the mysterious Premier Ford, between now and the June 2, 2022 Ontario general election, only five months down the road. So … to be continued, in the new year …

Meanwhile again, I feel duty bound to objectively report that, whatever else (and I certainly agree this can be reasonably and also quite objectively viewed as gigantic), Premier Ford has some reason to take heart from the latest opinion polling.

Lambertlodge Ave, Toronto, c. 5:30 PM, Dec 16, 2021. PHOTO : Michael Seward.

P. J. Fournier’s 338Canada poll aggregations for Ontario as of “November 24, 2021” suggested an election held late last month would give the Ford Conservatives 35% of the province-wide vote and 55 seats in a 124-seat Legislative Assembly — for a perhaps short-lived Conservative minority government. The Del Duca Liberals would take 41 seats with 30% of the vote. The Horwath New Democrats would win 27 seats with 26%. And with 5% province-wide Mike Schreiner’s Greens would again take his one seat in Guelph.

Most recently, however, M. Fournier’s 338Canada poll aggregations for Ontario as of “December 23, 2021” suggest an election held on say Boxing Day 2021 would give the Ford Conservatives 36% of the province-wide vote and 64 seatsfor a bare Conservative majority government in a 124-seat Legislative Assembly. The Horwath NDP would take 30 seats with 27% of the vote, and the Del Duca Liberals would take 29 seats with another 27%. Again with 5% province-wide Mike Schreiner’s Greens would take his one seat in Guelph.

Mayor Rob Ford with friend from June 2015 Toronto Sun.

If Premier Ford does similarly win a majority government in the real-world election five months from now, it will not of course be because anything like a democratic majority of the provincial electorate likes his Ontario PC government.

It will be because his two main progressive rivals equally divide their 54% majority of the popular vote.

Under such circumstances fate will nonetheless have conspired to make Doug Ford premier of Ontario for four more years.

And many of us in the democratic electoral majority will have some fresh questions about the current political party system in Canada’s most populous province!

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